Culture

Memo to Washington Establishment: No, Trump Didn't Cause Low Public Trust in Democracy

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Every day it seems somebody in the Washington establishment discovers another way that the evil Donald Trump threatens the survival of democracy and America. This week it’s Niall Stanage of The Hill:

“Experts are worried about an intensifying erosion of American democracy as Republican politicians, spearheaded by former President Trump, stoke doubt about the legitimacy of elections.

“‘It is very dangerous because it is sowing doubt in our elections process, which is fundamental to a functioning democracy,’ said Jennifer McCoy, a political science professor at Georgia State University and an expert on democratization and polarization.”

It’s now Trump’s fault that there is “an intensifying erosion of American democracy,” according to “an expert on democratization and polarization.” And why is it principally Trump’s fault, according to Stanage?

“Trump’s repeated false claims about the 2020 presidential election have become more and more shrill. … Many GOP figures have followed Trump’s lead on elections rather than rebutting his specious claims.”

Message to Republicans: Stop helping Trump destroy American democracy.

To be sure, Americans’ confidence in their federal government is at a low ebb. And who can blame them when more people have died of Covid in 2021 than in 2020, hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens have entered the U.S. at the southern border in 2021 (and even more are on the way), inflation is roaring, murder is at an historic high, dissident parents are being targeted as “domestic terrorists,” and the nation’s economic supply chain heads toward disaster as companies find it all but impossible to hire needed staff?

Stanage is manipulating a political narrative when he ascribes the blame for the “erosion of democracy” to Trump. How do we know this? As it happens, Gallup has conducted surveys of public trust for decades. Lack of confidence in institutions, including elections, and polarization are inevitable consequences of declining public trust in their most powerful government.

A quick check of the historic data reveals the following:

  • For the 10 surveys Gallup conducted between September 2021 and September 2013, the average of respondents expressing “a great deal” of trust in Washington’s ability to deal with domestic problems was 6.9 percent.
  • For the 10 surveys Gallup conducted between September 2012 and September 2005, the figure was 8.2 percent.
  • If we take just the five most recent years, which cover Trump’s four years in the Oval Office, the average figure is 3.6 percent.
  • If we take five surveys Gallup conducted between 2005 and 2007 on this question, the figure is 4.0 percent.

Gallup also asked respondents about their trust in Washington to handle international problems. The numbers came in somewhat higher, with an average of 10.2 percent between September 2013 and September 2021, compared to 12.1 percent for the period between September 2005 and September 2012.

In other words, public trust over the period covered by 20 surveys taken during the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations declined 15.2 percent. Now, that’s not a negligible decline to be sure, but the data show no precipitate plunge once Trump took the Oath of Office.

What we see instead is a steady downward trend through three presidential administrations spanning both political parties. What we also see across those administrations is the biggest expansion of federal power and regulation in American history. Federal officials have assumed responsibility for solving all of our problems, with, according to multiple authorities, declining success.

And yet Stanage and his “expert on democratization and polarization” would have us believe it’s all Trump’s fault. What Stanage is peddling is yet another application of the same Democratic narrative one hears daily in the establishment media — name a problem and it is always Trump’s fault.

This phenomenon goes beyond the Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) that dominated the headlines throughout the four years he was in the White House. No, this is the Washington establishment applying the Saul Alinsky maxim: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

Once your target is polarized, which with Trump was mainly accomplished via the “Russia!! Russia!! Russia!!” fable, then you link all the rest of your enemies to that target to discredit them.

That’s why it’s all about the narrative, or to put it another way, “it’s all about the party line.” It just comes naturally to people on the Left. Doesn’t require conspiracies; as ideologues, they are like sheep, so they loyally follow their shepherds.

In case you wonder why I put quotation remarks around Stanage’s description of McCoy, it’s because a quick scan of her bio finds she and her research have been the beneficiary of federal funding, chiefly through the National Science Foundation (NSF) and USAID, two agencies not known for handing out tax dollars to researchers known to be advocates of limited government.

For the record, I am not a Trump “loyalist.” I came to the nation’s capital to elect and then work for President Ronald Reagan. Trump is no Reagan. But Trump isn’t Lucifer, either, and those like Stanage who insist he is are doing so because they have an agenda. And it ain’t reporting the news, it’s shaping the news.

Related: Trump Still Rising